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THE POWER AND IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC

By Pastor William R. Cunningham
for Sunday January 15, 2005

 

INTRODUCTION

Music is powerful.  Music has a definite impact on us in most if not all aspects of our lives.  Music can change the mood of a person, act as a carrier for suggestions, and even influence the mind.  You can appreciate the power of music by imagining watching your favorite movie without any music whatsoever.  Imagine all commercials being void of music.  I’m sure you can now appreciate the power and influence that music has.

I’m sure you have experienced a situation where you happen to hear a certain melody or a particular song on the radio and all types of emotions arise based on past events.  You have associated those events with that song or music.  I experience this many times especially with the songs of the late Minnie Ripperton.  It is just something about her songs that are so peaceful and soothing to say nothing of the words, which I rarely listen to.  Music alone has a lot of power.

Advertisers use music to influence us all of the time.  They use the short jingle so that you would remember their product and increase the chances that you would purchase it.  I’ve witnessed the influential power of music during church services for the good and the bad.  I’ve been in churches where mere music was the basis of bringing people into the church and hopefully increase membership.  I’m sure you have heard about churches that brag about their band, choir, or praise and worship team for example.

We are going to examine the power of music in this sermon.  We are going to learn the affects that music has on us and how we can use that in praise and worship of God.  We are also going to see how music can be used to help us with day-to-day challenges.

MUSIC POWER

Music indeed has a lot of power over us whether we realize it or not.  I am very sensitive to music especially since I am a musician.  I use music often to lift my spirits so to speak or to just enter into the presence of God.  It is quite amazing that music has such an affect on us.

Music is used in a professional setting as a means of therapy.  Consider the following definition for “music therapy” that was taken from the American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org).  Music Therapy is an established healthcare profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages.  Music therapy improves the quality of life for persons who are well and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses.  Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • promote wellness
  • manage stress
  • alleviate pain
  • express feelings
  • enhance memory
  • improve communication
  • Promote physical rehabilitation.

Music is used in a professional setting as a means of therapy.  Music indeed is powerful and very influential.

Consider the following scriptures.

Exodus 32:7 (NKJV) -- {7} And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.

Exodus 32:18 (NKJV) -- {18} But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, Nor the noise of the cry of defeat, But the sound of singing I hear.”

This is the incident where Moses was receiving the law from God while on Mount Sinai.  The people at the foot of the mountain began to rebel against God and they created an idol to worship while he was with the LORD for 40 days.  Now Joshua’s response seems to indicate that the music has a certain feel or mood that was associated with the music.

The great philosopher, Plato made the following comment about the affects of music.  “In order to take the spiritual temperature of an individual or society, one must mark the music.”

Socrates also recognized the affects of music. He considered it an instrument of indoctrination and character development.  He stated:

"Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful." He also understood the significance of training while still in the time of youth. ". . . now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why" (taken from http://www.amazingdiscoveries.org/music_socrates.htm).

When a person sings a song repeatedly, the words of that song become engraved in one’s mind. The same is true here, that if one sings spiritual songs, the message will become engrained in his or her mind. In this circumstance music is a tool used for memory, which serves as an example of music’s power. Also in this situation, mental and emotional health will be a derivative of music. This is from the peace of the “continuous” message of hope. (From “The Power of Music” by Dr. Damian Phillips).

The Carrier Effects of Music

Turn on your radio and find a classical music station and spend a few minutes listening to the music.  Now find a hard rock station and spend a few minutes listening to it.  Experiment with different types of music and note your response to each of them.
The continuous rhythmic and repetitive aspect of music allows it to be a carrier of sorts of a particular message or suggestion.  The message of the music does get in either by the words of the song or the mood that it influences within us.  It is believed that music has a way to get deep into our spirit and affect us even when we are unaware of it.

Consider the following scripture.

Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) -- {16} Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Notice that Paul states to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Music could act as a carrier signal for teachings and admonitions.  In general, music can carry a message.  My wife and I have noted that singing is a big factor in improving the learning capacity of children.  Children learn faster when music and songs are incorporated in the instructions.  Think back when you or your children learned the alphabets.  You sang the alphabets first!  You will find music to be a major factor in teaching children new things.

I recall reading how Arius used a nice little jingle to spread his heretical teaching about the deity of Jesus Christ (or anti-deity).  The jingle went something like, “There was a time when Jesus was not.”  People were singing it while working for example.  It got into their psyche and the Gnostic message that undermined the deity of Jesus Christ spread and became one of the first major threats to Christianity.

We also note how David used music to soothe King Saul when he was plagued by an evil spirit that tormented him.  See 1 Samuel 16:14-23.

1 Samuel 16:23 (NKJV) -- {23} And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.

Music surely had a major impact on Saul as it soothed him when he was tormented by the evil or distressing spirit.

Certain aspects of music surely create or induce a mood or emotion.  This very fact can be used for your benefit or against you.  For example, a song in a minor key will tend to be melancholy (sad sounding).  I find songs in minor keys to be very “worshipful” for lack of a better phrase depending on how it is played.

You have probably experienced the effects of music and harmony in church services that you have attended.  Consider the fast paced songs, the march paced songs, and the solemn slow songs.  They all induce a particular mood and sometimes a tension.  They all produce a certain atmosphere around you.  Certain keys and rhythms are believed to influence us on a spiritual or psychological level that we may not be consciously aware of.  I’ve encountered this many times in my own times of worship while playing the keyboard and in several churches that I’ve been in.

My point here is that music can act as a carrier for a particular message or suggestion.  It could set a mood where you are more vulnerable to be manipulated.   A certain mood is induced in you by the music and this could place you in a heightened state of suggestion.  That is, you are more receptive and more apt to be influenced by external suggestions.  For example, the music is playing and you are having a good time in church.  The band is “jamming” and you are dancing in the aisles.  The minister begins to entice you to give, which you do with great joy.  You followed the suggestion and did what the minister wanted you to do.  Sometimes this could happen at a deeper level and you slowly conform in part to the type of music that you listen to.

This means that we should be diligent about controlling the type of music that we listen to.  We should not allow ourselves to listen to any type of music because as we just learned, music can and often do carry a particular message or mood that will influence what you do.

Illustrations From Scripture

Let’s look at some illustrations of the power of music from the Holy Scriptures.

2 Kings 3:14-15 (NKJV) -- {14} And Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. {15} But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.

Here we find that the King of Israel (King Jehoram), the king of Judah (King Jehoshaphat), and the king of Edom were going against Moab who had rebelled against them.  The Moabites used to pay tribute to King Ahab before he died and his son Jehoram became king.  They reached a point in the wilderness where there was no water and they called for a prophet.  They summoned Elisha to inquire of the Lord as to what they should do.  They had reckoned that they would be defeated by the Moabites if God didn’t intervene.

Elisha told them that the only reason he would see them was because of his regard for King Jehoshaphat, who was a good king overall.  At this, Elisha called for a musician.  The word of the Lord came to Elisha while the musician was playing.

We see here the power that music had over Elisha.  It ushered in the presence of the LORD and the Word of the LORD.  It appears here that music could perhaps put us in such a state that we would be more able or more receptive to hear from God.

2 Chronicles 20:22-24 (NKJV) -- {22} Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. {23} For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. {24} So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.

Here we see how praise and worship had its place in protecting Judah.  God moved on their enemies when they began to praise praises to God.  We see the power of music in God’s intervention (not that this is a rule) and we also see the place of music in praise and worship.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14 (NKJV) -- {13} indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, {14} so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

Here we see a direct correlation of the manifestation of the presence of God and music.  The music here was the envelope so to speak for praise and worship.  Music seems to be influential in manifesting the presence of the LORD.  Why don’t you put on a selection of Christian music and notice the affects that it has.

Music in the Christian Faith

Music is important to the Christian lifestyle because music influences us so much.  Therefore, we should be diligent about what type of music we listen to.

Of course we can ascertain that music plays an important part in ministry.  Just think of the last church service that you attended.  Music in churches is typically used during the praise and worship section of the service.  Note that music in church should not be used for entertainment purposes.  Instead, it should be used as a carrier for praise and worship.

We can listen to music to assist us in entering the presence of the Lord.  We could use music to help us to become encouraged, joyful, and worshipful.  Music can influence us in many ways by setting the atmosphere for whatever we desire.  Therefore, we should use music as more than a means of entertaining especially even while being entertained we are also being influenced.

Churches have to be very careful about degrading music as a form of mere entertainment during church services.  This happens many times where the only concern about the music is that the band is “popping” or that they are jamming.  Music in church services is more than entertainment.  It is a means usher in the presence of the Lord.  This same thing could occur for you while at home.  Use music to set the stage for the presence of God.  It’s not that God comes when you play music.  It is more like us being more receptive and in a state of mind where we are more sensitive to the presence of God.  After all, God is already there.

Conclusion

Music is very powerful.  It influences us and it can set the stage for many things mentally and spiritually.  Music can assist us in entering the presence of God.  It could be used to change our state of mind and it could be used for mere entertainment.  We Christians should be aware of the impact that music has on us and act accordingly.  We should monitor what we allow ourselves and our children to listen to.  Remember that what we listen to will affect us.

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